Ascend Out of Darkness
Hades, the action-roleplaying roguelike has been making waves since its debut in early access back in 2018, was nominated for a whole slew of awards when it was officially released in 2020. Knowing this, and having played Supergiant’s previous games, I had very high expectations for Hades going in – and let me tell you, I was not let down.
Right from the get-go, you are treated to a sensory feast – gorgeous artwork with butter-smooth animation, a haunting soundtrack, stellar voice acting, complemented by responsive controls; not surprising if you’ve played other games by Supergiant, but always a treat to experience.
The game is simple – you play Zagreus, the son of Hades (king of the underworld); who has to fight his way out of hell (your mission is to get to the surface, like a reverse Diablo). Along the way you encounter mythical creatures to slay, gods who will grant you boons (new abilities), and mysterious characters who will aid you.
Like other roguelikes in the genre – there’s not much of hand holding, you’re left on your own to figure out what you need to do. Due to the number of choices and decisions you can make in Hades, it might seem overwhelming at first, but Supergiant Games have done a great job drip feeding content as you progress further out of hell.
Die, Rinse Yourself in Blood, and Repeat
If you’re unfamiliar with roguelike games, here’s a what to expect – procedurally generated levels (meaning no two runs will be the same), and lots of dying. You will die a lot in this game, it’s a core mechanic of the genre, so don’t feel discouraged if that happens to you. Don’t be afraid of it, in fact, you should embrace it. Losing all the gold and upgrades you’ve picked up along the way might seem like a punishment, but it’s not – they were meant to be temporary. Dying is the only way you can permanently upgrade certain aspects of your character or your weapons.
The game has a nice balance of things to do in between deaths. Whenever you lose your life, you’ll respawn back in the House of Hades, where you’ll get to partake in base-building, upgrading your character, and story development. There are plenty of activities to carry out around the house with all the resources that have been accrued from your previous life, and it’s a nice break from the intense action which got you killed in the first place. Once you’ve done all that, you’ll have to start the journey again from the beginning. This time around you’ll have a slightly stronger character (if spent points upgrading). Treat each unsuccessful run as a learning experience, and you’ll get better with every try.
Hades does a good job of teaching you the game’s mechanics. If a regular enemy uses a new kind of attack on you, you can expect it to be in the arsenal of an upcoming boss. Pay attention to detail and you’ll be able to prepare yourself for future encounters. Unlike a lot of roguelikes, Hades keeps track of what’s going on via its unlockable codex. There’s no need to refer to a wiki while playing the game but you can if you’re keen on learning things faster.
There are many stories to be unlocked with each playthrough. You learn about the relationships between the characters, the world, your own family, the gods, and everything the game has to offer. Roguelikes aren’t usually story-heavy, but this is what makes Hades stand out from the crowd – a tightly woven storyline that can be unravelled at your own pace.
You can choose to completely ignore the plot (but why would you want to?) if you’re not big on storylines and still enjoy the game – the core gameplay is just that good. But the combination of the two is what makes this game a masterpiece.
Tough as Nails
Although it’s nowhere near Dark Souls‘ level of difficulty, Hades is not a stroll in the park. Life regeneration is scarce in the game, so you’ll need to keep an eye out on your life total. Avoid taking hits when possible, and don’t forget to dodge.
Hades is easy to get into but it’s not something you’ll beat on your first try (unless you happen to be some sort of video game savant). That being said, you’ll need some perseverance to enjoy this game and if you have a bit of patience to stick it out, I can guarantee that you won’t be disappointed in it.
The game also offers a ‘God Mode’ which increases your resistance to damage in the game every time you die. It’s not the recommended way to play the game but it is an option if you’re desperately stuck and would like to proceed to the next level.
It has been some time since something managed to pull me away from my favourite game of all time – Dota 2. The fact that the developers mentioned the Valve title inspired them makes me think that it’s no coincidence. Both games are extremely deep and complex. While they play very differently, the hundreds of unique interactions between all the different powerups Zagreus can obtain reminds me of how all the different skills can work together in Dota 2. Some of the ability effects in the game are even reminiscent of Dota 2 spells – like the Ruptured status curse being similar to Bloodseeker’s Rupture and Winter Harvest akin to Ancient Apparition’s Ice Blast. Trust me when I say Dota 2 fans would have fun playing this game!
The first time I booted up Hades, 3 hours flew by without me realizing it. I was blown away and knew that this game was something special.
As a person full-time working adult with many other tasks and hobbies, if a game doesn’t capture my attention within my first session, I’ll usually give up on it. If I can spend my time doing things I like instead (I have hundreds of other games on my backlog and Dota 2, of course), why should I bother? At the time of writing, 15 hours in, I’m nowhere close to beating the game and I’m still looking forward to my next escape.
Hades has rightfully earned of all its accolades. From the beautiful presentation to its expansive storyline and addictive gameplay loop – each time you rise up from the pool of blood in the House of Hades, it’ll leave you telling yourself, “alright, one more time.”